As Trump threatens tariffs, migrant families keep coming


EL PASO, Texas (AP) — On Wednesday, Border Patrol agents near downtown El Paso encountered a group of 1,036 migrants who had entered the country illegally — the biggest cluster the agency has ever seen. At one point in May, a holding cell designed for 35 migrants was crammed with 155. Six children have died in U.S. custody since September, three in the past month.

U.S. authorities are overstretched and overwhelmed by an unprecedented surge of Central American families arriving at the southern border. It is against that backdrop that President Donald Trump threatened this week to slap tariffs on goods from Mexico unless it cracks down on the flow of migrants.

“It is certainly a crisis at this point, and it does not lend itself to quick fixes,” said Doris Meissner, who headed the former Immigration and Naturalization Service in the Clinton administration and is now a fellow at the Migration Policy Institute.

Border Patrol arrests have jumped sharply over the last year but are still well below historic highs of the early 2000s. What’s different is the type of people crossing: Able-bodied Mexican men have been replaced by Central American families with children, many of them impelled to make the journey because of grinding poverty and violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Juan Carlos Santos, 34, walked past the end of a bollard-style fence in New Mexico with his 9-year-old son, Yair, and was picked up by Border Patrol agents. On Friday, he was at the El Paso Greyhound station, bound for Washington, where he has a cousin who lent him money to pay a smuggler.

Man Who Self-Immolated Outside Trump Trial Dies, Bizarre Manifesto Found Posted Online

Santos said he wanted to stay in Honduras but gave up after a year of unemployment. The farmworker hopes to bring his wife and 2-year-old daughter after paying his debt to his cousin.

“There’s no work,” said Santos, who blamed drought and other factors for a decline in the corn and coffee fields he used to harvest. “Unemployment gets to you.”

The surge has shown U.S. authorities to be woefully unprepared.

The Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog reported Friday that during unannounced visits to El Paso in early May, it found a 125-person capacity holding facility had 700 people one day and 900 another day. They were packed in so tightly that some resorted to standing on toilets.

Agents told investigators that some migrants were being held in standing-room-only conditions for days or weeks.

“We are concerned that overcrowding and prolonged detention represent an immediate risk to the health and safety not just of the detainees, but also DHS agents and officers. Border Patrol management on site said there is a high incidence of illness among their staff,” the report said.

Along the nearly 2,000-mile Mexican border, there were 98,777 arrests in April, nearly 7 out of 10 of them people who came as families or children traveling alone. Arrests are up from 38,243 a year earlier, when about 1 in 3 were members of families or unaccompanied children.

El Paso offers the starkest illustration of the shifting landscape. Arrests there are up nearly 1,000% from a year earlier, and nearly 9 out of 10 are families or unaccompanied children.

Migrants are increasingly coming in large groups. The Border Patrol said it has encountered more than 180 groups of over 100 people since October, compared with 13 in the previous 12-month period and two the year before.

At Least 20 Dead After River Ferry Sinks: 'It's a Horrible Day'

Meissner said the Trump administration’s tariff ultimatum is the latest in a series of dialed-up threats after several failures, including the practice of separating families at the border.

“These shock-and-awe measures that this administration keeps trying to put into place every several months each time is making it worse,” she said.

Meissner said people in Central America who are thinking of journeying to the U.S. are being told by smugglers and family members in this country: “You better come now. You never know what’s coming next.”


Astrid Galvan in Phoenix contributed to this report. Spagat reported from San Diego.

The Western Journal has not reviewed this Associated Press story prior to publication. Therefore, it may contain editorial bias or may in some other way not meet our normal editorial standards. It is provided to our readers as a service from The Western Journal.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands. Photo credit: @AP on Twitter
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
New York City